Monday, June 7, 2010




: a devotee of ballet

Most words for devotee pick up the suffix -phile, meaning "attraction to or love of" (cinephile, bibliophile, technophile). BALLETOMANE however prefers to stick with -man, as in "mania," implying an abnormal level of devotion. Merriam defines mania as:

1) excitement manifested by mental or physical hyperactivity, disorganization of behavior, and elevation of mood; specifically : the manic phase of bipolar disorder

2) a : excessive or unreasonable enthusiasm—often used in combination
b : the object of such enthusiasm

So, the important question here is—why does ballet attract maniacs? I have to admit I am in no way qualified to even speculate on this question. My experience with ballet is limited to seeing The Nutcracker three or four times, and even in those cases I went for the live orchestra, not the dance.

I did have a minor infatuation with ballerinas when I was a child. The first who comes to mind is a girl named Lydia Lundgren, with whom I attended elementary school. I envied Lydia for three reasons:

1) She was tall, slim and blonde, attracting the attention of much of Racebrook Elementary's young male population. I was...sort of tall, kind of chubby and topped off with long, straggly black hair that was often in some sort of perpetual snarl.

2) I really liked the way her name sounded—Lydia Lundgren—it seemed to flow really naturally off of one's tongue. Perhaps it was the alliteration. I had a thing for the letter "L," too. I'm not really sure why.

3) She was a ballerina, which implied some sort of grace inaccessible to the average eleven-year-old girl. When we were in sixth grade, her ballet company performed something—maybe The Nutcracker—in front of our whole school. I didn't know any of the other girls in the performance, so I watched Lydia the whole time. I was so in awe of her talent and her movements—she exuded a sort of elegance that was totally foreign to me. After the show several other girls crowded around her in the school's front hallway, praising her performance. She stood in the center of a giggly swarm of prepubescence, cheeks flushed from exertion, wearing a sparkly white tutu. I wanted to approach and tell her how beautiful and talented she was in the performance, but there was a whole world of sixth-grade bureaucracy separating us. So I said nothing.

I suppose this is as close as I ever got to being a BALLETOMANE. And even this was more like ballerinomania. Or not even really. I was just eleven and had low self-esteem. I don't think I really cared about ballet.

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